When it comes to eating disorders, the truth is that every single organ system in the body can be affected. It is NEVER too late to start your path to recovery or heal your body through consistent nourishment. However, some damage, like the weakening of bones, may never be fully repaired. Due to this, and many other reasons, it is important to start seeking treatment early to prevent any further damage or consequences.

You may have heard that calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. While that is true, calcium is also used for so many other things in the body! Your heart, nerves, and muscles also require calcium to function properly. Bones are essentially the storage site for calcium. Inadequate calcium in the diet causes the body to rely on breaking down calcium stored in your bones. If this calcium is not replenished, bones become weak and porous. This is why those who have suffered from or currently suffer from an eating disorder have increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density decreases and bones are more likely to break. It’s known as the “silent disease” because it often goes unnoticed as one does not feel or see bones becoming weak and brittle. One may not know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Bone density formed during adolescence is particularly important as bones may not reach their full potential. The earlier and longer the eating disorder occurs, the greater the potential for bone loss. Although the most creation of new bone occurs in the first few decades of life, it is important to protect and take care of your bones at all stages of life.

Nutrition plays a critical role in the protection of our bones. If you restrict food intake, you may be missing out on essential nutrients that protect your bones. These nutrients include calories, protein, vitamin d, calcium, phosphorus, and more. Yes, calories are important for bone health!

Use these tips to help restore and maintain bone mineral density.

Restore body weight. Weight restoration is considered the best intervention to restore bone density. For those that have lost weight through excessive exercise, purging (vomiting or laxative abuse), and/or food restriction, this weight loss could be greatly impacting bone density. Weight loss results in loss of lean muscle mass and can cause bone loss due to less support around the bones. Additionally, weight changes can cause hormonal imbalances, also impacting your bone health.

Incorporate a variety of food choices, particularly foods high in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium-rich foods include dairy foods like cheese, yogurt, and milk. You can also get calcium from dark green leafy vegetables, fish with edible bones (such as canned salmon), and calcium-fortified foods like soymilk, fruit juices, and cereal. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is rarely found naturally in foods. Egg yolks are an example of naturally occurring vitamin D, but most vitamin D foods are fortified such as milk and milk alternatives. Supplementation of calcium and vitamin D may also be required to meet needs for some people. Talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian to see if supplementation is the right choice for you.

Follow recommendations for limiting physical activity. Physical activity may be limited to help achieve weight goals. Additionally, engaging in physical activity outside of recommendations, increases risk for stress fractures or bone breaks.

Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Both alcohol and smoking have been shown to be harmful to bone health.

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, recovery is possible and attainable. Work with your dietitian to create a meal plan that supports your nutrient needs.

Harmony Nutrition in Alpharetta, Suwanee, and Smyrna Georgia. To learn more, visit www.harmonynutritionatl.com.